Posts Tagged ‘failure’

10 Hard Skills To Learn That Will Last A Lifetime

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

To survive growing up on a remote cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming, there were hard skills to learn if I wanted to survive. I needed to be scrappy, gritty, and tenacious. If I wasn’t keeping an eye out for rattle snakes, I was avoiding horned bulls from charging my horse as I tried to cut them from a herd of cows.

I learned many important life lessons on that ranch, not the least is that it takes hard work, sweat, and mental toughness to get to the top and stay there. I took many of those lessons with me into the FBI as an undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years.

Here are 10 hard skills to learn that will last you a lifetime:

1. Hunt The Good Stuff

Positive thinkers are not optimists. Positive thinkers believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believing their circumstances will change; optimists believe their circumstances will eventually change for the better.

FBI Agents are not optimists who hope or expect an arrest to go without a hitch—instead, they prepare for the worst and practice ahead of time.

When they do come across adversity, they don’t wait and hope things will change for the better. They adapt quickly to the new situation and remain flexible by choosing to remain positive so that they will find a solution.

TIP: The greatest mental toughness tool we have is our ability to choose one thought over another.

2. Become Emotionally Competent

We all know lots of people who are intelligent, but they are not necessarily competent. If you can’t empathize with other people, you will never develop the emotional skills needed to get along with them.

As an FBI agent, I learned that empathy is not feeling sorry for others; it is relating to what others feel. Empathy helped create a team spirit within our squad and motivated agents to try harder.

As a leader or entrepreneur, you need to develop empathy to become a leader who can push people beyond their own apathy and to think about something bigger than themselves.

Emotional competency also requires you to develop the skills necessary to communicate accurately with people. This includes understanding the importance of both verbal and non-verbal cues.

TIP: You can have the greatest ideas in the world, but if you can’t explain them to others, you will never be anything more than an educated loser.

3. Know What Makes You Tick

Successful people spend their time thinking about what they want to do and how to make it happen. They know what is important to them; they have a vision and a set of goals to get them there.

In other words, it’s hitting your stride because you’ve found what makes you tick. The FBI only hires second career professionals because they want to know that the individual is making a deliberate and well thought-out move from their first successful career into their second with the FBI.

It doesn’t always take talent to meet goals. Instead, success needs flow. Flow is described as a state of deep absorption in the activity during which performance seems to happen effortlessly and automatically.

According to psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge so it acts as a catalyst for learning new skills and increasing challenges.

TIP: Ignorance of your competition makes you vulnerable; ignorance of yourself makes you stupid.

4. Have The Confidence To Fail

Unfortunately, most of us fear failure so much that we shuffle along in life until we accidentally stumble onto something at which we are good. Success can be very misleading because often it is not what really fuels us. It is a success that is based in complacency because we are too scared of failure to pursue the type of work that would provide value and meaning.

It takes confidence to look failure in the face and keep moving forward because if we are confident in ourselves and our ability, we look at failure as part of the fine-tuning process.

Most of my FBI investigations met many failures as I continually looked for the soft underbelly of the puzzle in front of me. Each failure educated me more about how to keep moving forward to solve the investigation.

TIP: The way in which you deal with failure determines how you will achieve success.

5. Identify Self-Limiting Beliefs

A British psychologist proved that our memory is not always reliable.  Instead, we extract the gist of the experience and store it in ways that makes the most sense to us. That’s why different people witnessing the same event often have different versions.

We already know that we are biased toward anything that confirms our own beliefs, but it’s important for you to realize that your brain has its own built-in confirmation bias. This means it stores information that is consistent with your own beliefs, values, and self-image.

For example, if you have low self-esteem, your brain tends to store information which confirms your lack of confidence. That will be all you remember about a specific event.

TIP: When you have doubts about your abilities and have self-limiting beliefs about what you can do in life, never rely on memory to give you accurace feedback, especially if the feedback is negative.

6. Stretch Toward Peak Performance

Unless you know your limits, you will not be able to prepare either your mind or your body to move past them. To move toward peak performance, you need to stretch your current skill level—but not so hard that you want to give up.

At the FBI Academy, if coaches didn’t push every agent past their comfort zone every day they weren’t doing their job.

Experts agree that this magic stretch is 4% greater than our skill. Anything more will discourage you from trying harder; anything less will not push you hard enough to move forward. However, its important to keep that continual tension between stretch and skill if we want to move toward our peak performance.

TIP: Smart leaders focus on developing peak performance by continually moving into their discomfort zone.

7. Manage Time Wisely

Find a system that works for you and stick to it. Not everyone is a morning person, so perhaps you’re most alert after you’ve exercised or taken a nap. The idea is to schedule the tasks that take the most energy for when your brain is fresh and alert.

Visuals are a great way to activate the mind. That’s why storytelling, pictures, and metaphors work so well—they generate an image.

Visuals are laden with information. They provide color, shape, size, context, etc. Since they take less energy than words, they are efficient ways for the brain to process information.

TIP: Grab a pen and paper and write down your prioritized projects for the day. This saves your brain from the need to recall and review each one. Save your energy for getting those tasks done!

8. Use Positive Self-Talk

The internal conversations we have with ourselves, called self-talk, can go on for days, and sometimes through our nights as well. Many of us know how vicious that inner critic can be. Often, we are harder on ourselves than we are on others. It’s not because we want to be, it’s because we don’t know how to manage our negative self-talk.

Energy follows attention—wherever your attention is focused, your energy will follow. If your inner critic is beating you up about a failure, your failing will be the one thing you focus on.

TIP: The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others

9. Make Room For Your Emotions

Mental toughness is managing our emotions in ways that will set us up for success. Instead of denying uncomfortable emotions, acknowledge them.

Researcher David Rock believes that labeling our negative emotions is an effective way of short circuiting their hold over us. So give your inner critic a name or call it out for what it really is—jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.

You can keep the name in your head, but Rock believes that when you speak it, it activates a more robust short circuit to help break the emotional hold.

TIP: Destroy negative thoughts when they first show up and are at their weakest.

10. Find Your Tribe

Sebastian Junger wrote in his book, “Tribe”—“We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–tribes.”

The FBI Academy created a tribe when they refused to let new agents leave for the first several weeks. We grew to depend upon each other and it was habit that we took with us into the field as we looked out for fellow agents

When you are a member of a tribe, you have an acute sense of belonging—you feel accepted and safe when things go wrong. Many of us are lucky enough to feel that our biological families are our tribe, but usually tribes are founded around groups of people with shared values, ideas, and experiences.

In the competitive world of business, it is not always easy to feel safe and accepted. When things go wrong, you fear losing your company, your job, and maybe even your health.

TIP: In times of stress, it’s easy to feel neglected. It’s impossible to instantly create deep bonds of familiarity and trust. Don’t wait until things go wrong to start finding your tribe. Start now.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

5 Bullet Proof Confidence Strategies, From A Former FBI Agent

Monday, August 29th, 2016

As an FBI agent making an arrest, success wasn’t an option—it was an absolute necessity if I wanted to stay alive. I couldn’t wait for success to show up before I became confident in my abilities. The confidence was there first; the successful arrest came afterwards.

Confident woman

Confidence is a critical building block for a successful career because it is the one mindset that will take you where you want to go. The good news is that confidence is a set of learned skills and beliefs.

No one is immune to bouts of insecurity at work, but they don’t have to hold you back. For entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners, it means having the grit you need to get through those times of doubt and the presence of mind to learn the lessons they can teach you about yourself and others.

Here are 5 bulletproof confidence strategies to get you where you want to be:

1. TAKE RISKS

Risk - mouse in mug

Most of us don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re truly challenged. And most of do not want to be truly challenged because we don’t want to fail.

But failure can be very beneficial for building confidence because it allows you a perfect opportunity to 1) learn why things went wrong, and 2) see how you can make adjustments next time.

When learning how to make an arrest or interview a terrorist I needed to take risks, fail, and learn from my mistakes as much as possible before I found myself in the actual situation.

If you think you never make mistakes, you are a narcissist—either that or stupid. But if you are humble and self-aware, you recognize that taking risks, making mistakes, and failing will help you understand that there is always something you can do to be better.

What It Means For You

Stressing yourself is the only way to grow, both mentally and physically. This means you will fail, but this is OK as long as you are willing to learn from the mistakes you made.

2. ASK FOR FEEDBACK

Communication - 2 people

Research by Leadership IQ shows that people who are good at managing negative feedback tend to be more successful than those who are not. The study further indicates that of those who fail, 26% do so because they are unwilling to accept feedback as they are afraid it might be negative.

In another study, it was found that people who ask for feedback are the most effective leaders. According to Joseph Folkman, leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.

This study suggests that the worse you are as a leader, the less likely you are to be willing to ask for feedback because you’re afraid you will hear the truth!

After every major FBI operation, everyone involved gathers for a “hotwash” which is a critical analysis of the event. What went right, and why, is discussed as vigorously as what went wrong, and why. Everyone left the hotwash with a clear understanding of their performance in the operation.

What It Means For You

Pick people whose feedback will be honest and constructive. Feedback can be viewed as one more piece of data to analyze, digest, reject, or accept as information to make a better decision.

3. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Persistence - runner tying shoe

The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it. Throw out preconceived ideas of what you can, and cannot do. If you put your shoulder to it, you will find that grit trumps talent every time!

Life-long training is a fact of life for FBI agents. It starts the day we arrive at the FBI Academy and ends the day we sign our retirement papers.

This constant training creates the sort of mentality that prepares for the worst and practices ahead of time to overcome it. We’ve either gathered the evidence, slapped on the handcuffs, or run the drills so we know what to do in case the sh*t hits the fan.

What It Means For You

Start by trying out your new skills in a safe setting. Practice a dry run before actually launching a product, negotiating with a tough customer, or making a presentation. Not only will it boost your confidence, but it can help you improve the quality of your performance.

4. LINK UP

Teamwork - ants

It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Having a solid network of people who understand you and your situation can help pave the way to confidence and success.

When your talent or skill set is reinforced by someone you respect, it resonates at a deeper level. When you believe you can do it, you work harder. When others believe in you, they push you harder.

The FBI encourages camaraderie amongst the agents because there is an intrinsic belief that together, we can all do better. And this keeps producing confidence in our own abilities.

What It Means For You

Find ways to link up with others in your area of expertise. There is something very powerful about seeing someone like yourself show you how to do the impossible.

5. GRIT UP

Grit Up!

Grit is the passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Great athletes are not always young and fresh; instead, they are the ones who have prepared for the game and have the desire, grit, and will to succeed.

Researcher & psychologist Angela Duckworth has found that grit is the best predictor of success

Grit is unrelated to talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that the high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting success.

The most successful FBI agents were those with intrinsic goals like “I want to serve my country” or “I want to test my abilities” as opposed to those with extrinsic goals like “It’s a prestigious position” or “I will be in a powerful job.”

What It Means For You

If you are pursuing work that has meaning for you, it is easier to put your shoulder into it.

These tried-and-true strategies will help you build the confidence you will need to be ultimately successful in business and life.

What strategies have you used to gain more confidence?

This article was first published on Smartblog.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

book

4 Essential Elements of Grit

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

New FBI agents are assigned either assigned cases so old that witnesses have died or cases with such quick turnaround leads that the new agent is left spinning.

pablo

It didn’t take me long to figure out what I needed to do to move as quickly as possible out of the rut of Team B and into the ranks of Team A—comprised of agents who not only worked hard, but had the grit to keep moving ahead when faced with failure or adversity.

But new agents were not the only ones stuck on Team B.

Older agents who did not have the grit to consistently do what they needed to do to succeed often found themselves run over by other agents who possessed resolve, willpower, and the perseverance to stick to their long-term goals.

Grit is your ability to persevere over the long-run and thrive despite all kinds of unplanned events.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, grit is an essential skill because it is the one thing you will need to succeed. If you give up when the going gets tough, you’re done.

Here are 4 essential elements of grit that you should know:

1. Feel The Fire In Your Belly

I knew I wanted to be the type of FBI Agent who could make a difference. In other words, I was passionate about my work.

Passion is the linchpin of grit. It is doing something and following a dream that gives you both value and meaning.

Passion gives people a single-mindedness that we do not see in others. It is a combination of ambition, willpower, and grit that keeps long-term goals in focus at all times.

TIP:

  • When you feel your determination begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal.
  • If you surrender and give up, ask yourself if it’s because there is no fire in your belly and you are not really following your dream.

All dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible—T.E. Lawrence

2. Maintain Clarity of Goals

When I first started working counterintelligence and espionage, my goal was to be assigned a foreign intelligence officer.

Later, though, my goal had shifted. Now it wasn’t enough to be working cases—I felt drawn to tell others about how a huge organization like the FBI could be nimble and flexible enough to react to the demands of terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11.

My vision had not changed—I still wanted to be an FBI agent, but my goal had. I became the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California for four years. I’m glad I made the move because my long-term goals had shifted.

TIP:

  • Revisit your goals annually to make certain that something hasn’t changed over the past year. Your mind is constantly adapting to new information coming your way.
  • Even a slight shift calls for a re-alignment in your priorities. Like myself, it may not require you to throw up your hands and quit, but it may suggest that you re-think where you fit in the larger picture.

3. Follow Up With Self-Discipline

There were many times when it was tempting to give up on an investigation when the leads got cold and there was no easy path forward.

Mental toughness was required to persevere and be agile enough in my thinking that I could approach a roadblock or obstacle from many different angles—always looking for the soft underbelly and refusing to give up.

Self-discipline is important because while grit is the ability to keep doing something, self-discipline often implies the ability to refrain from doing something.

TIP:

  • Face your problems head on. It isn’t your problems that define you—it’s how you react and recover from them. Your problems are not going away unless you do something about them.
  • Be honest with yourself about what you want to achieve, who you want to become, and the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your goals.
  • Define your goal as behavior. Identify the specific steps you need to take to achieve your goal. Define your goal in terms of behavior.
  • Organize your day. Once you’ve set your goal, it must become a priority.
  • Watch for excuses. Self-discipline means doing something you don’t necessary want to do.
  • Remember the reasons you want to reach your goal. When you feel your determination begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal.

4. Learn From Your Misses

Training in the FBI starts on your first day at the FBI Academy in Quantico and ends on your last day as an agent. If FBI instructors are not pushing you beyond your comfort zone, they aren’t doing their job.

Moving out of our comfort zone is hard because it usually means a trial and error approach as we find new footing. It’s important to take mistakes in stride and use the opportunity to learn from them. Only idiots don’t learn from their mistakes.

People with grit shrug off failure, focus on immediate recovery, and move on. The attitude determines the outcome, so it’s important to focus on lessons learned and how to keep moving forward.

TIP:

  • Seek feedback about how you can make your best performance even better. Research indicates that leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.
  • Celebrate the small wins. Learn to appreciate the smaller steps that lead to success.
  • Learn from your challenges and become better because of them.

Grit is the mental toughness to continue to move ahead even when life hasn’t thrown you a perfect hand. It is the deliberate action of doing something again and again until you get it right. And then maybe doing it again after that, too.

Talent does not trump determination. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Grit, persistence, and determination will keep you moving ahead when your circumstances and environment has changed.

How have you developed grit?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

4 Ways To Overcome Failure

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

I was a new agent and had just been given my first surveillance assignment. I sat outside the subject’s house and waited. And waited. For something—anything—to happen. Hours later, I found myself asleep. Actually, it was a supervisor who found me and blew his horn. I jolted awake but I had been caught; I was embarrassed and needed to find a way to overcome failure.

The pain of my failure was so acute that I never wanted to experience it again.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, you will need to overcome failure and setbacks; and by now, you also probably know that you can learn a lot from them.

Unfortunately, the truly useful failures that change our thoughts and behavior (as opposed to merely stupid decisions) are somewhat rare. But it is possible to treat all failure and setbacks as strategic input on how to improve performance next time.

It didn’t take long for the supervisor who found me asleep on the surveillance assignment to spread the word to my colleagues. I swallowed my pride, kept a positive attitude, found ways to get interested in my assignment, and rewrote the ending by changing the focus from what I did wrong to what I was doing right.

Here are 4 ways you can overcome failure and setbacks: 

1. PUNCTURE THE EGO AND ADMIT YOUR FAILURE

The higher up the chain of command, the harder it is to admit a mistake.

But, the best thing a leader can do is share a few personal stories with other team members of how they have overcome failure.  This is where a big dose of humility and a small ego will serve them well. Mentally tough leaders do not always have to be right.

TIP:

When you communicate this to other team members, it does several things:

  1. Assures them you won’t point the finger of blame at someone if something goes wrong
  2. Encourages others to be more open, and honest, about their performance
  3. Creates an environment of innovation and experimentation
  4. Indicates that you truly understand the consequences of creative problem solving
  5. Gives others permission to bring potential problems to leadership’s attention earlier rather than later

Too often, leadership talks about a strategy of “trial and error” but their reaction to failure undermines their message.

2. MAINTAIN THE RIGHT ATTITUDE ABOUT FAILURE

People with strong mind make their emotions obey their logic.

Mental toughness is managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success. Your rational and thinking brain may understand the value of risk and failure, but your emotional, limbic brain system does not!

The only way to take control of your emotions is to focus on what you are actually learning from the experience.

As your brain learns, it adapts. What created fear, initially, is tempered by the thinking brain’s ability to see positive outcomes in the midst of a disappointment, failure, or setback. When you overcome failure, you become less afraid of it. And that is a good thing because it means you’re in control of your emotions.

TIP:

If you focus on what you’ve learned, it suppresses the negative emotional reaction.

Remember—the key to success is avoiding the same mistake next time—so fail, but learn the lesson.

3. START ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS ABOUT FAILURE

Rather than having all the answers, ask more questions.

The best questions always start with, “How, when, why, and what?” These are open-ended questions that invite conversation and discussion.

Curiosity is the foundation of life-long growth. If we remain curious, we remain teachable so that our minds and hearts grow larger with each passing day. We can retain our beginner’s mind by always looking forward and discovering new experiences and uncovering new information.

Success seduces us into becoming set in our ways. “It’s working,” we say to ourselves, so we settle into comfort zones that begin to look more and more like ruts as we age.

TIP:

Curiosity is important for peak performance because it:

  1. Makes your mind active instead of passive
  2. Encourages you to be more observant of new ideas
  3. Opens up new worlds and possibilities
  4. Creates an adventurous response that leads you in a new direction

4. WRAP FAILURE UP THE RIGHT WAY

Behavioral scientists have indicated that the way in which we predict our future behavior is determined by our past memories.

If team members end a project with a sense of failure and hopelessness, their only memory of the experience will be negative. They will not move on to another project with a sense of growth.

As the leader, entrepreneur, or business owner, you have the power to create an atmosphere of trust and appreciation—whether or not the project was a failure or a success.

In the book, The Other “F” Word, the authors suggest that the best workplaces are formed on a foundation of trust, and trust is not forged when things are going great. Instead, it is formed when things are not going great because this is when team members learn who has their back.

TIP:

There is a difference between failing, and learning from your failure. Learning from failure is an active process that requires you to put as much thought into it as you do how you plan to achieve success.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of complacency when confronted with a failure or setback because it takes more effort to extract the lesson to be learned than it does to shrug, give up, and move on.

The way in which you deal with failure determines how you will achieve success—LaRae Quy

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

SSM book-cover52 Tips cover small

The Positive Side Of Negative Thinking

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

I grew up in a family that survived by preparing for the worst: blizzards, drought, broken fences, and the threat of wildfire. There was a positive side to this negative thinking—as ranchers who made a living by raising cattle, we kept them fed, watered, and safe from Wyoming’s fierce winters and suffocatingly hot summers.

Negativity pablo

I remember Dad always anticipating the worst possible outcome as the severe seasons rolled by so he could prepare, and land on his feet when confronted with the unknown.

As an FBI agent, we planned arrests by giving priority to what could go wrong. We were not optimists who hoped everything would go according to plan.

Both my Dad and my fellow FBI agents were intelligent thinkers who were mentally tough. That is, they weighed the possibility of a negative outcome with equal heft as the possibility of a positive outcome.

Intelligent thinking is another term for positive thinking. Let me be clear—positivity is not optimism that always expects things to change for the better, nor is it pessimism that always assumes the worst will happen.

It is often as difficult for optimists to be positive thinkers as it is for pessimists. Positive thinking is not denying the contribution of negative thinking. In fact, it’s wise to prepare for the worst that could happen in business and life.

The term “positive thinking,” however, has been polluted by the relentless cheer of motivational speakers who pressure their audience by goading them to stamp out all traces of negativity.

While this approach seems to be popular with some audiences, it’s not a particularly sophisticated—or realistic—approach to life.

Mental toughness is not being afraid of negativity; instead, it is learning how to harness its power so it works for you.

Here are 5 ways negative thinking can make you a positive thinker:

1. Accept Your Negative Emotions

Observe all of your emotions and sensations as they come to the surface—not just the feel-good ones. Do not try to suppress a negative emotion simply because it’s negative. Be honest about what you are feeling.

TIP: Acknowledge all of your emotions and try not to judge them as being positive or negative. Then let them pass. The key is to not dwell on those emotions which are counterproductive or undesirable.

2. Embrace The Possibility of Failure

The all-positive approach of motivational speakers is relentless in its pursuit of perfection. The more realistic approach of positivity, on the other hand, does not reject failure. In fact, positive thinkers embrace failure as a challenge—a call to action to keep moving forward.

TIP: Do not give up and walk away, searching for something easier at which you will finally succeed. If achieving this goal is important to you, continue to approach the problem, but from different angles while at the same time honing your talents and skills.

3. Look For Positive Options

Negative thinking prepare you for the reality of a negative outcome in a situation, just as positive thinking is continually looking for and finding the positive options that every situation offers.

Thoughts are stubborn; once you let them take hold and grow roots, it is very difficult to erase them from your mind. Whatever grabs your attention rules your life. So, you need to control your thinking.

Researchers confirm that the very thing your mind focuses on is the same thing that you will start to notice in your daily life.

Your survival instinct has warned you of the possible negative outcome; now, you need to counter that warning with a positive response that will prepare you as you move toward the obstacle.

TIP: Recognize the negative aspects of your situation, but don’t dwell on them. Turn your attention to the positive options available to you.

4. Believe You Can Prevail

Positivity is believing we can prevail in our situation, regardless of the circumstances. Prisoners of war and Navy SEALS have found that their belief in their own ability to prevail in extreme and adverse conditions is what kept them alive.

Survival, in one form or another, is at the heart of mental toughness. It is prevailing over our circumstances and moving forward.

TIP: When things look tough, you will need to have the grit to be persistent and understand that failure is not the end—it simply represents another way to approach our situation.

5. Differentiate Between Visioning and Fantasy

Visioning is based on solid science. By visioning our performance repeatedly, our brain stores that information as a success. And with each success, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past.

Use your dopamine not only to see rewards, but to move toward them.

Dreams can easily turn into fantasies if we let our thoughts get out of control, and fantasies can actually lessen our chance for success. Those who are adamant optimists about a positive future will experience a greater shock when things go wrong. If people fantasize only positive beliefs about their future, they are less prepared and more stressed when things don’t workout they way they had hoped.

TIP: For you to be a leader, you must see things as they really are. Then see them the way you can make them better.

Mental toughness is not just surviving through tough times, it is thriving, and not letting the environment control your thinking. Don’t pretend the negative aspects of your situation don’t exist, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, believe you will prevail by looking for, and finding, positive options.

What suggestions do you have for learning how to harness the power of negativity?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

What Successful People Know About Failure

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

When I was ten years old, I was riding my black quarter horse  and helping my grandmother cut a horned bull from the cattle  herd. The bull  suddenly turned, horns first, and charged my  horse. I grabbed the saddle  horn; my horse pivoted on his  back hooves and we got away unharmed.  My first attempt was a failure, but I still needed to  find a way to get the bull corralled….

Success - biker

There is one thing you never say to a grandmother who  has ammo on her  Christmas list: “I can’t.”

My grandmother was a mentally tough woman who never used the word quit or accepted defeat. No matter how difficult the situation, she kept trying.

Nothing grabs our attention like failure. For me, as a ten year old kid, failure meant I was not successful in getting the bull into the corral. Like most people, I defined failure as lack of success.

This attitude is not only antiquated, it is dangerous—because failure is an important learning tool for the brain.

Successful leaders, entrepreneurs, and small business owners all know that understanding how to deal with failure is part of the job. They know they don’t make bad decisions; they just have bad results.

Here are 5 things you need to know about failure and actions you can take:

1. Feed The Brain, It’s Starving

A child learns to walk by falling down; scientists experiment to identify what doesn’t work so it can be eliminated from future experiments. Learning is error-driven.

The limbic brain system has kept us safe for centuries because it pays more attention to negative information that could be perceived as a threat. It taught cavemen to GET lunch, and not BE lunch. This “negativity bias” is what drives learning since negative information gets the brain’s attention faster than positive information.

Failure forces us to integrate new information, and researchers have found the bigger the failure, the more we learn. The brain, you might say, feeds on failure.

2. Whip Back the Monster Called Ego

To the unconscious mind, being successful means being worthy. At the deepest level, success means we are worthy of being loved. And being loved is what matters to us most.

Failure reinforces a belief that we don’t have what it takes to make it in the world. While we don’t welcome them, failures remind us that we are not the center of the universe. If we really think about our experiences, we can see that there are factors beyond our control—indeed, factors that have nothing at all to do with us.

Failure humbles us, and this can be a good thing:

  • Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking about yourself less.
  • Humility reminds us that we’re no more important than anyone else.
  • Humility reminds us that no amount of success we’ve had in the past guarantees success in the future.
  • Humility reminds us that it’s not about us.
  • Humility reminds us that each individual on this planet matters.
  • Humility makes us more authentic, which breeds trust.
  • Humility makes us better professionals, better leaders, and better human beings.

3. Keep Grasping for What is Out of Reach

Since we are imperfect creatures, there will always be a gap between what we are and what we can be. Our fear of failure can help us succeed because it sparks our desire to grasp what is just beyond our reach.

This is great motivation for leaders and businesses because failure can create the spark, the inspiration for great achievements.

Our struggle with our own failings can, ironically, bring out the best in us.

4. Explore the Unknown and Make New Discoveries

Psychologist B.F. Skinner once said that when you try something new and produce a result that was not what you expected (i.e. failure), drop everything and study it further because failure can be the portal for a new discovery.

Roy Plunkett, a chemist at DuPont, set out to invent a new refrigerant. Instead, he created a glob of white waxy material that conducted heat and did not stick to surfaces. Fascinated by this “unexpected” material, he abandoned his original line of research and experimented with this interesting material, which eventually became known by its household name—Teflon.

5. Shed Light on Blind Spots

Psychologists find that we tend to repeat the same mistake, and repeat it in endless variety. That is the definition of a blind spot.

Failures are incredibly valuable because they allow us to analyze our performance, and when we do, we identity those patterns of behavior that do not keep moving us forward. Unfortunately, “teachable moments” are usually accompanied by feelings of frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment.

The leaders at Google know something very important about failure; they not only celebrate failure, they budget for it and it’s potential insight. Employees can spend 20 percent of each workday on their own projects even though 80 percent of Google ventures fail.

If people want big success, failure comes with the territory.

BTW, I knew my horse spooked the bull so, like my grandmother, I refused to accept defeat and tried something different: I got off and stood in front of him. The bull swung his head so hard, snot flung from side to side. He eventually turned around and wandered in the direction of the corral. I followed, leading my horse. I did get the bull corralled in the end.

How has failure made you a better leader, entrepreneur, or small business owner?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover

Why Highly Successful People Have A Plan B

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

Excerpt from my “Energize Your Leadership” chapter.

For me, becoming an FBI agent was Plan B.

PODCAST:

Why HIghly Successful People Have A Plan

Growing up on a cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming, I yearned for a life of excitement. I graduated with a Business Degree because I thought it would open doors in the world of fast-moving finance. It didn’t take long for me to find the routine of an office job terribly boring—there was no adventure, no excitement, no real challenges to keep my mind alert and creative. 

After a bit of research, I decided that the U.S. Foreign Service was the answer to my dilemma. Lots of travel to exotic lands and immersion in foreign cultures—it sounded like my dream job. I carefully ticked off all the requirements needed to apply, filled out a background form and sent off my application.

I did very well on the personality test, but I failed miserably on the language aptitude test so my application was thrown out.

The word “failure” hung over my head: I did not get into the Foreign Service. I didn’t know where to go or what to do next.

Yet, growing up on a cattle ranch had instilled in me a strong sense of persistence and determination. If something didn’t work out right the first time, Plan B was quickly called into action. If cattle needed to be fed or watered (which usually meant life or death for them) I would keep at it until I found a way to move forward and get the job done, no matter how long it took.

After failing the Foreign Service, I realized that I needed to put Plan B into action in my own life and refocus on what other options were out there for me. I wasn’t going to wallow in self-pity. Since I had already researched U.S. Government jobs, I knew I also qualified for the FBI. I submitted the application. Six months later, I was in the FBI New Agents Training Academy at Quantico, VA.

I have never looked back.   

Successful people are those who are good at Plan B. Why? Because by trying and failing, we learn what doesn’t work—and with that comes the knowledge we need to understand what will work.

1. Find Gratitude And Redefine “Failure”

Succesful people, from whatever organization or walk of life, tend to repeatedly cite one specific personal failure when explaining their success. Usually, the failure was one that was traumatic and difficult to transcend. Filled with desperation, they felt as though they’d hit rock bottom.

As Warren Bennis said, “It’s as if that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.”

Too often, “success” is simply mediocrity. It’s where we stop on our way to being the person we really wanted to be. We are smart, talented, and full of untapped potential—and too afraid to move into the discomfort of the unknown and push our boundaries.

Why?

  • We’re afraid of failure.
  • We’ve not learned what will work, and what won’t.
  • We have no Plan B to implement what we’ve learned.

2. Become Your Own Hero

The key is to not linger too long on anything that clearly isn’t working. This means failing frequently.

Only by trying many different things will you find the one way that points to the best future. But when you do, you become your own hero!

Repeated failure will build mental toughness and show you with absolute clarity how you must move forward if you are to succeed. It’s actually a curse to have everything go right when you first start out because you will start to believe you have the golden touch . . . and when you do inevitably fail, you’ll be demoralized.

3. Lose The Shame

We are afraid of failure because, essentially, we have a fear of shame.

Most of us are motivated to avoid failing because we cannot manage the basic emotions of disappointment or frustration that may emerge; instead, we feel deep shame that we are imperfect—and vulnerable.

Failure offers the gift of bringing priorities into focus. If something doesn’t hold value for you, then giving up and moving on to something different does no more than prick your pride.

If, however, you risk losing something important, you will work hard and do what it takes to tackle the obstacle that stands between you and success.

When has Plan B inspired your success?

This article is an except from my chapter in “Energize Your Leadership,” a collaborative book project with 16 experts advice on how to ignite, discover, and breakthrough. Pick up your copy now!

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

52 Tips cover smallS

5 Great Pieces Of Advice About Success

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

FBI agents are expected to be successful investigators. When a child is kidnapped, success in finding the kidnapper is not a desired outcome; it is a requirement.

PODCAST: 

Tiger - tiger catching fish

When facing distraught parents, you know deep down that you will do whatever it takes to bring that child home. Success is possible, but it takes mental toughness to sort through the hard facts about what it takes to succeed.

Here are five great pieces of advice to keep in mind about success:

1. SUCCESS REQUIRES AN ABUNDANCE OF WILLPOWER

For years we’ve been told that willpower is limited—it’s best saved for a sprint, not the race.

Psychologist Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, strongly disagrees. She believes that willpower is limited only if we believe it is. We put boundaries around ourselves when we believe willpower is limited.

But if we are mentally strong leaders who believe that if we work hard, we will be energized to work more, then we are creating willpower. 

As FBI agents working on child kidnappings and other crimes, we worked long hours in strenuous conditions and forged ahead to embrace even more challenging activities.

It turns out that willpower is in our head! 

2. SUCCESS COMES EASIER IF YOU MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

We are significantly more productive when we’re feeling positive about our situation, even during tough times. 

One of the most important characteristics of mental toughness is the ability to find positive aspects in the middle of negative situations. Positive thinking does not give up or shut down when we’re hit with an unexpected roadblock. Just the opposite—positivity nudges our brain to seek out more possibilities. We’re smarter and more creative as a result.

Creative thinking was often the difference between success and failure in many of my FBI investigations.

Even pessimists can learn to be positive thinkers. 

For each negative thought you have, write down 5 positive ones to counter it. If you cannot find 5 positive thoughts, write down 5 things for which you are grateful. Do this for several weeks and you will see begin to see changes in your behavior: not only will you connect better with others, you will also manage your stress.

3. SUCCESS IS ABOUT FAILING AS MUCH AS WINNING

If we want to be successful, we must learn how to fail.

Another way to build mental toughness is saying “yes” to situations where you know there is a likelihood you will fail. FBI training continually put new agents in situations where failure was imminent. 

This may seem counterintuitive to anyone who strives to be successful—after all, why would you intentionally place yourself in a situation where you might make a mistake or fail? 

There are three reasons: 

  1. Success comes from stretching yourself toward peak performance. If you do not keep moving into your discomfort zone, you will stop growing. And when that happens, you surround yourself with mediocrity.
  2. Success requires that you analyze and critique your failures because you learn something about yourself that you did not know before. Strong minded leaders allow this knowledge to show them how to be successful next time around.
  3. Success hinges on choosing to put yourself in situations where you will fail or come up short so you’ll be aware of your reaction. This is incredibly important in today’s volatile work environment since your ability to predict your response to a disruption will allow you to land on your feet, rather than be caught off guard and simply react, and perhaps not in ways that help your leadership move forward.

4. SUCCESS IS THE PRODUCT OF HAPPINESS, NOT VICE VERSA

Most us believe just the opposite—that success will bring us happiness, but the reverse is actually true.

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, says that if we work harder to achieve our goal, we think we’ll be happier. But research is clear that every time we experience success, our brain changes the definition of what success means. In essence, success will always be an elusive goal, so if we’re expecting happiness to be the result of our hard work, we’re most likely never going to get there!

Instead, increase levels of happiness in the midst of a challenge, and you will find that your success rate will increase as well. It’s important to remember that joy is a deeper emotion that is connected with well being, living a life of meaning, and living according to values.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones—Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)

5. SUCCESS REQUIRES A GOOD KICK IN THE BUTT EVERY SO OFTEN

It’s tempting for us to whine and complain when life doesn’t turn out the way we expected or planned. We feel life isn’t fair when we compare ourselves to others.

Here is the bitter pill for you to swallow: what you’re feeling has nothing to do with fairness; it’s all about entitlement.

You have total control over your attitude, so if something is wrong put that mental energy into making the situation better—unless you plan to whine about it forever.

Your words have power, especially over you. Don’t talk about what’s wrong. Talk about how you’ll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself. Positive self-talk is a cornerstone in training for Special Forces, FBI agents, and anyone who wants to be successful.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me”—Erma Bombeck

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

 

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

52 Tips cover smallS

 

9 Ways You Can Conquer the World

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

I may have wanted to conquer the world, but my first FBI supervisor was a tall, affable guy named Bill who tended to assign the sticky cases to the newest agent on the squad—me. Bill handed me a dog-eared file that had obviously been kicked around for a few years. The case was so old that one of the witnesses had died! 

Mental Toughness - win the race

I started to complain but Bill held up his hand and said, “What I expect from you is an adventurous response.”

I had joined the FBI because I was seeking something unique and exciting, and the more I thought about Bill’s admonition, I realized that adventure can not only be found in  our experiences, it can also be found in the way we think.

An adventurous response is looking for the possibility in every situation, even when it doesn’t look all that great at first glance. Bill’s suggestion brought me to a closer understanding of the role of positive thinking in developing mental toughness. I was a new agent, but Bill understood that by focusing my attention on the positive aspects of my case, I would mature into the kind of person who looked at both life and work as an adventure.

When leaders have an adventurous response to life’s vicissitudes, they can conquer the world.

Here are 9 ways:

1. Start Early and Win the Morning

If it takes caffeine to get you started in the morning, go for a full cup. If you procrastinate in starting your day, what does that foretell about the way you’ll approach the rest of it? Eat a good breakfast, pray, read the Bible, workout—feed your mind, body, and soul first thing every morning. 

2. Surround Yourself with Successful People

Pick your friends with care—they create the environment in which you will either thrive or wilt. Give everyone the opportunity to be a friend, but share your dreams and goals only with those who value them as much as you do.

If you surround yourself with positive people who build you up and believe in you, you can conquer the world. No matter how many you have in your network, if you want to be truly successful you will need three types of people:

  • Those who are older and more successful to learn from
  • Those who are your contemporaries for encouragement
  • Those who are below you in experience to keep you energized

3. Believe and Act As If Everything Is a Gift

Instead of appearing like Pollyanna, think about it like this: Assuming everything is a gift is a great way of looking at the problems that will undoubtedly pop up in life and business. Choose an adventurous response by remaining positive so you are not intimidated by obstacles.

4. Write in a Journal

Goals, dreams, and ideas that are not written down are not real.

Journals can:

  • Force you to clarify what you want
  • Motivate you to take action
  • Filter the best opportunities
  • Help overcome resistance
  • Enable you to celebrate your progress

5. Engage in Mindfulness, Prayer, Meditation, or Yoga On a Daily Basis

Research has shown that the benefits of mindfulness are not just for individual health, but also for corporate bottom lines. Stress-reduction doesn’t just make us happier and healthier, it’s a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one.

6. Ask Questions, Lots of Them, Always

Raising new questions, exploring possibilities, and regarding old problems from a new angle activates our imagination and stimulates our thinking. Continually ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my purpose on earth?
  • Where is my heart telling me to go?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I start doing?
  • What is my petri dish?

7. Try, Try, and Then Try Again

If you want to try something new, you will fail at first; if you don’t fail, then it wasn’t really anything new at all. Failure is a wonderfully clarifying process because if you fail and give up, then you’re heart wasn’t in it. Move on so you can get somewhere better.

If, however, you fail and do not accept defeat, keep at it until you find the secret to unlocking the potential, in both yourself and your obstacle.

8. Start At the End, and Then Don’t Stop There

Decide what you want to do, who you want to be, and where you want to end up. You cannot conquer the world setting average goals for yourself. Aim at nothing and you will hit it every time. 

Never start small where goals are concerned. Most people don’t set goals too high and miss; they set goals too low and hit. Your decisions will be better when your ultimate goal is ultimate success. 

9. Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

Setting and achieving a goal isn’t the finish line for people who are successful. Achieving one goal is simply a launching pad for the next huge goal. 

When you become successful in one field, you will find that you have the skill set to be remarkably successful in other fields. Do not settle for running one race. Expect and plan to win a number of them.

Mental toughness is choosing how you respond to life’s circumstances rather than leaving things to chance. Once you do, you can conquer the world.

Any tips to offer on how people can conquer their world?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

52 Tips cover smallS

Enhanced by Zemanta

4 Ways To Be In Control of Your Life

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Do Ya Feel Lucky? Well, Do Ya, Punk?—Dirty Harry

Early in life, I made a decision to be in control of my career. I decided I wanted to work for the Foreign Service so I could travel and live an exciting life. I applied but didn’t pass the foreign language aptitude test. I refused to let this stop me from pursuing my path; I wanted to live an exciting life, so I turned my attention toward the FBI.

Lucky dice

Within six months I was hired as an FBI agent—a record in speedy recruitment. The average waiting list is three years. I had people walk up to me and say, “You were very lucky.” But no, I don’t think so.

It’s not that I don’t believe luck doesn’t exist; it’s just that I think it can be created and controlled. Luck happens when we seize opportunities to improve ourselves and our situation. It definitely doesn’t happen if we silently wait and hope for our lives to change.

I wanted to be in control of where I took my life—not a passive spectator. My experience with the Foreign Service is only one example of where life has not always unfolded in the direction or manner that I had planned. When disappointments, roadblocks, barriers, or obstacles kept me from my path, I took them as opportunities to re-evaluate both my plan and my options.

If you are a startup or business owner, it is impossible to be in control of markets, competition, and economic downturns. But this is exactly when you need to be in control of your own emotions, thoughts, and behavior so you can manage them in ways that will allow you to keep moving forward. In other words, you need mental toughness.

Here are 4 ways you can be in control of your own life:

1. Beware Of Goals

We live in a very goal-oriented society. Once we achieve our goal we feel terrific, but then there is the realization that we have just lost the thing that gives us direction. Goals are temporary and temporal; they can be too rigid to change with circumstances. If we’re too wedded to them, we won’t be able to adapt to those changes.

If I’d continued to beat my head against the closed door at the Foreign Service, I would have gained nothing but blood and bruises. That is not mental toughness; it’s being hard-headed.

Instead, hitch your heart to your purpose. Your purpose will not change, even if your circumstances do. You will always find a way to connect with your purpose: your beliefs, values, and priorities. When confronted with obstacles, keep your eye on your purpose but be prepared to let go of your vision of an immediate goal in order to get there. Other, more expansive goals might become available as you move forward.

2. Remain Positive

Living on a cattle ranch, I had a couple of different options on how I looked at cow turds. Either something to be avoided, or something to be used. When dry, they make excellent frisbees, and they are also dynamite fertilizer for the garden!

When you are positive about the events in your life, you are more alert to the possibilities that whiz around you everyday. People who are positive and in good moods actually take in more visual information, while those in bad moods don’t see as much around them.

When you are always looking for opportunities, luck happens because you’re motivated to take the steps necessary to succeed. You make it easier for luck to find you because you are more open to life’s forking paths, and see possibilities that others miss.

3. Develop Flexibility

Luck tends to smile on folks who have a more relaxed approach to life. They have clarity of purpose and don’t worry too much about the details. For example, rather than aiming to become the top cardiac surgeon at John Hopkins, they vow to be a doctor who helps save lives.

Once you have pinpointed the direction you want your life to go and attached your heart to your purpose, there are many different ways to get there. Goals can be good, but don’t let them interfere with the direction your heart is telling you to go.

4. Move Out Of Your Shell

Researchers have found that people who call themselves lucky are more likely to be extroverts. Because they are curious about others, they are more likely to have opportunities present themselves since they not only meet lots of new people, they also keep in touch with a larger group of friends.

Whether or not you are an extrovert, you can still be curious about your environment and the people around you. Inquisitiveness is one of the most important traits of mental toughness. It is having the curiosity to see beyond your current circumstances so you can create your own luck and move forward.

Control your own luck by seizing opportunities to improve your life and situation. The result will either be a lucky break or the regret of a road not taken.

What would you add? How do you take control of your own life?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

52 Tips cover smallS